Likes Likes:  0
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 18

Thread: Best way for an adult to learn to play by ear?

  1. #1
    Newbies
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Posts
    5
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Best way for an adult to learn to play by ear?

    I will try to keep this short.

    I am an adult in my late 20s who took a few years of piano lessons as a child but otherwise has no musical experience. I didn't grow up with classical music, but came to it on my own between my late teens and early 20s. I have no background in music theory.

    I have decided I would like expand my horizons and deepen my relationship with music by learning to play an instrument.

    Here's the problem:

    I am visually impaired and cannot practically read music. I know how to read music, at least in a rudimentary sense, but I cannot practically see it well enough to play from it.

    So I want to learn an instrument "by ear". I am a serious hifi enthusiast, but I doubt this translates well to the ability to play from listening. I like to think I am a pretty astute lay listener and I only listen to classical music (that is to say I have no interest in popular music).

    So I don't know where to start. Do I need to take some music theory classes first or concurrently with lessons?

    And what instruments might be my best option? I am very partial to classical guitar because there are a lot of teachers and other resources and because decent instruments can be had for relatively low prices. However, I am getting the impression that not many teachers teach classical guitar by ear. I understand that a piano would probably be the best point of entry, but I cannot afford and lack the space for a piano. I am quite opposed to the electric piano/keyboard approach, but am willing to have my mind changed. An acquaintance of mine who is a violinist and cellist says I would be very frustrated starting with the violin because I have very large hands. I am not opposed to the cello or another bowed instrument, but it seems like a very daunting place to start. I would also consider woodwind instruments, but brass instruments don't interest me much.

    Understand that my goal is not to be able to play a particular instrument, but to deepen my understanding and enjoyment of music.

    Any advice would be much appreciated. I look forward to being part of this forum. I have lurked here for a long time but have never posted.

    Thanks so much.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Nashville, Tennessee
    Posts
    15,148
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    The saxophone is easy to learn by ear. Once you learn the notes from C to C, you just press the octave key, and it's the same fingering for the next octave. Compared to the clarinet, it's more intuitive to learn, and compared to the flute, you don't need to develop your embouchure to a great extent to be competent. Plus, when you wear sunglasses, you look cool playing it.

    Once you get around the fingerings, there are a ton of .99 karaoke downloads on Amazon so you can play alone and still have a band backing you, which helps with ear training.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Meaghan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Portland, OR (US)
    Posts
    847
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I think woodwinds are a bit easier to learn quickly than bowed strings, judging only from the fact that I made more progress in my first year on clarinet than in my first (and only) year on cello, but maybe that varies from person to person. Woodwinds are certainly much less expensive. In terms of embouchure, single-reed instruments are easier to learn than double reeds or flutes. Then the choice largely comes down to what timbre you prefer. I find clarinet a more beautiful instrument than saxophone, but then, I play it. Clarinet is also very versatile--it figures prominently in classical, jazz, and klezmer, all of which employ very different styles of clarinet playing.

    I think one of the most important parts of learning to play an instrument by ear is being able to recognize intervals. If you can listen to a melody line and identify the intervals in it, you can reproduce them and copy the melody. There are ear training computer programs (including Aurelia, Amadeus, and MacGamut) that will teach you intervals, if you don't already know them. These usually do employ some music notation--I don't know whether that's a problem when it's on a computer screen. It's also something you could ask a private teacher to work with you on, if you get one.
    Last edited by Meaghan; Mar-25-2011 at 21:00.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Nashville, Tennessee
    Posts
    15,148
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Meaghan View Post
    I find clarinet a more beautiful instrument than saxophone, but then, I play it.
    Either, way, they're fun. Except for that thumb holder on the clarinet. At least with a sax you get a neckstrap
    Last edited by Manxfeeder; Mar-25-2011 at 23:15.

  5. #5
    Newbies
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Posts
    5
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Clarinet is interesting. Oboe and bassoon would also be interesting. I even would be interested in the lowly recorder. Thanks for the input.

    Sorry, but I am not feeling much love for the saxophone.

    Any more thoughts on guitar and learning by ear? I am still strongly leaning in that direction.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Meaghan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Portland, OR (US)
    Posts
    847
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by balls of clay View Post
    Clarinet is interesting. Oboe and bassoon would also be interesting. I even would be interested in the lowly recorder. Thanks for the input.

    Sorry, but I am not feeling much love for the saxophone.

    Any more thoughts on guitar and learning by ear? I am still strongly leaning in that direction.
    I love bassoon, but it's virtually impossible to find one that doesn't cost a fortune, even if it's crummy. Also, most oboe and bassoon players make their own reeds, at least once they're no longer beginners--hassle.

    Recorder is super easy to learn, and there is actually good music originally written for recorder if you go back far enough. Bach, Purcell, and Telemann all wrote for recorder, and there are baroque concertos for it.

    As for classical guitar, I'm sure someone on the forum has information (I don't). Starting another thread devoted specifically to your guitar questions might yield more results.

    edit: I believe the_emptier plays classical guitar; you might try talking to him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Manxfeeder View Post
    Either, way, they're fun. Except for that thumb holder on the clarinet. At least with a sax you get a neckstrap
    True. Some days I wish neckstraps were standard for clarinetists.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    201
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by balls of clay View Post
    Clarinet is interesting. Oboe and bassoon would also be interesting. I even would be interested in the lowly recorder. Thanks for the input.

    Sorry, but I am not feeling much love for the saxophone.

    Any more thoughts on guitar and learning by ear? I am still strongly leaning in that direction.
    Beginners on the oboe and bassoon sound like ducks and cows being tortured. It takes a long time just to get a decent sound out of them. Clarinet however sounds fine right out of the box.

    I recommend piano though if you desire to play melody and harmony. To play by ear, a teacher could teach you some chords and patterns on the left hand and how to play a melody independent of that. If you have some ability and past experience, you should be up and running playing your favorite pieces in a rudimentary way inside of a year.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Argus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Mancunia
    Posts
    1,755
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kmisho View Post
    I recommend piano though if you desire to play melody and harmony. To play by ear, a teacher could teach you some chords and patterns on the left hand and how to play a melody independent of that. If you have some ability and past experience, you should be up and running playing your favorite pieces in a rudimentary way inside of a year.
    I'd agree that a keyboard-type instrument is the way to go. If you don't have money/space for an acoustic, a decent digital piano should be fine for your purposes.

    Woodwinds and brass are monophonic (excepting multiphonics) so they aren't great for harmonic ear training. They along with violin style instruments are good in that they require you to use your ears and mind to locate the tones rather using your eyes or muscle memory, but the keyboard layout is so logical and intuitive it makes sense to use that for ear training.

    A guitar would be another decent choice as its both a chordal instrument and you can get slight nuances from vibrato and bends, but you wouldn't have the freedom of chord voicings/inversions as on a piano. Also, you can get caught up in fingering patterns and shapes instead of focussing on the sound.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Posts
    190
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I would agree that piano is probably the way to go. As for space, there are some truly excellent digital pianos with weighted keys that are quite affordable and sound great. I understand your reluctance towards a digital instrument but they really have come a long ways since the old days. I have heard my wonderfully skilled roommate play on both an acoustic upright and a Roland digital and I like the Roland better for sound. Yeah, the concert grand she played at a wedding sounded even better but who has room for that?

    If classical guitar is really your thing, try to find a teacher in more of a bluegrass, finger picking style. Most wont bother with sheet music and once you have that down, you should be able to transfer to classical with ease.

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    201
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Yes, I meant to mention that. There are plenty of good electric pianos and sythesizers with fine electric piano sounds that take up very little space and are cheap enough.

  11. #11
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Syracuse, NY USA
    Posts
    13,436
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I'm not sure I understand? If you can't practically see well enough to read music, how are you reading these posts? Anyway, I've always found playing solo classical guitar to be very satisfying. I'm sure you can find some teachers that are willing to help you get some pieces under your fingers so you can play some tunes.

    After you learn your way around the fingerboard, and become familiar with enough chords, you'll be able to pick out some tunes by ear.

  12. #12
    Newbies
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Posts
    5
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    I'm not sure I understand? If you can't practically see well enough to read music, how are you reading these posts? Anyway, I've always found playing solo classical guitar to be very satisfying. I'm sure you can find some teachers that are willing to help you get some pieces under your fingers so you can play some tunes.

    After you learn your way around the fingerboard, and become familiar with enough chords, you'll be able to pick out some tunes by ear.

    I make modifications to the browser and my computer screen to enable me to more easily read webpages. Thanks to advances in screen-reading software, many completely blind people can use computers very well, and indeed many are programmers.

    I CAN read music, but for me to be able to read it well at a distance that would be comfortable while playing an instrument it would have to be HUGE.

  13. #13
    Newbies
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Posts
    5
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    OK, so I have decided I want to play guitar, but I have one more reservation:

    What about my fingernails? How short can they be? The reason I ask is because I am a potter (hence the username), and long nails are NOT conducive to throwing pots on the wheel. I have read about the different shapes, but I cannot find a definitive answer on length. All I can find is "everyone is different". Anyone?

    Thanks.

  14. #14
    Senior Member jurianbai's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Singapore
    Posts
    1,357
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    great choice for guitar, added that you can also SING while playing.

    your left hand is normally no need fingernails, in fact you need to keep it as short as possible to allow the finger press nicely to the fretboard. for right hand, some styles can use fingernails, but normally it is also not mandatory. there is a guitar pick for help.

  15. #15
    Newbies
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Posts
    5
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Maybe SOME PEOPLE can sing while playing. I think I'll save everyone from my singing.

    Thanks for the advice about the nails. I will just "play it by ear" in that department and surely I can come to some sort of compromise.

    I am going to speak with my luthier friend about buying an instrument. I have a few leads for instructors. I hope to dive in in the next week or so.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Can an adult learn music instrument and be good ?
    By jurianbai in forum Beginners
    Replies: 71
    Last Post: Jan-24-2016, 14:52
  2. Can you start to learn music by play?
    By Foriero in forum Beginners
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: Jan-14-2011, 15:31
  3. Adult wants to learn music and has questions
    By stupidperson in forum Beginners
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: Jun-05-2010, 06:10
  4. Replies: 5
    Last Post: May-16-2010, 06:48
  5. Learn to play piano
    By Kenneth_L in forum Classifieds
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: May-28-2007, 16:52

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •